Art and Love Gone Wrong

Second of a series of excerpts from my memoir Loveyoubye: Holding Fast, Letting Go, and Then There’s the Dog, released April 2014. 

Quick catch-up. My husband starts taking off for weeks at a time. No explanation, no apology, just yards of attitude. After twenty-five years of marriage no less. Here I’m thinking back to when things were good between us.

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I remember the day I cast his face in plaster of Paris for the mask. He lay on his back on the cement front deck, Vaseline smeared all over his face, his beard and moustache matted with the goo. I’d finally persuaded him to go along with my experiment, but he almost lost it when I kept slathering on Vaseline. He couldn’t even stand sunscreen on his face. So there he lay, two straws sticking out of his nose while I kneeled beside him with a bucketful of plaster, slapping it on. I hoped this was the way it was done. All I knew for sure was that I had to hurry and finish before the stuff set. Just as I was about to plop down the last handful of plaster, he grunted.

“What’s wrong?” I yelled. Sticking his index finger in his ear as if I’d broken his ear drum, he made a rolling motion with his other hand for me to hurry.

“Yeah, yeah, I’m almost done,” I said just as his hand came down on top of mine. Plaster flew everywhere, some of it plugging the end of the straw sticking out of one nostril. He made a snuffling sound and, Frankenstein-like, struggled to his feet.

“Wait, wait!” Jumping up, I glanced around desperately for something to clear the straw. A bamboo twig? Too thick. He flopped back down and growled. I crouched over him.

“Snort it out!” I burst out laughing and couldn’t stop. Doubling over, I staggered around, crying with laughter. He reached blindly for me, his growl now a muffled roar.

“Sorry,” I managed to gasp, and I kneeled beside him. I touched the plaster. It had set.

“Listen, I’m going to get this stuff off right now, it won’t be long, okay?” I bit my lip to stop the giggle that bubbled up and started tugging on the edge over his forehead. He roared in pain.

“I told you we needed more Vaseline!” I shouted. Twenty minutes and a million microscopic tugs later I held a hair-speckled mold of Larry’s face in my hands. He sat up and glared at me.

Now I couldn’t help the grin that stole across my face. His encouragement had led me to the world of the arts, a world I’d yearned for back in Zambia and didn’t know it.

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Following The Muse

About two weeks ago, I came upon the Circle Painting project on Facebook. It was the colors that drew me in, but then I became entranced by how beautiful and vibrant these works of art were, a little bit of Joan Miro, some Frederick Karl, perhaps some Picasso? This, despite the fact that the creators are a random group of people coming together to make art.  Even little kids!

The project is the brainchild of Hiep Nguyen, an artist and teacher who believes in making art accessible to all. Since 2007, he and his group of fellow artists have traveled to 10 countries and engaged over 100,000 participants. Here’s a blurb from his website that explains the process:

Inclusiveness: Circle Painting embraces everyone into its circle of playful and easy-to-follow activities. Together we paint away stress, isolation, and creative block. Our motto: Art for All, All for Art.

Collaboration: You have an idea, I make it happen. I start a line, you complete a shape.We accept each other’s sizes and shapes, colors and values. We make everything big, bold, and fun.

Imagination: Expect the unexpected! See the world in a drop of paint and heaven in a piece of cloth. When we interact with each other’s lines and shapes, colors and forms, new images emerge at every turn, stirring our imagination.

This makes my heart swell, brings tears of gratitude to my eyes. This is what I need right now. This is what it’s all about. So this Sunday, I’m off to spend three hours at The Great Park in Irvine, with a bunch of strangers to paint circles, squiggles, dots, sun rays, zigzags, starfish, jelly beans, moons, vortexes and . . . and whatever my heart desires.